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Grigory Pasko: Welcoming our Friend, Lt. Col. Chávez

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It’s September again, and that means the children are heading off to school, and the birds – heading south. And, as tradition goes, Comandante Chávez has embarked on a world tour. This time, the Lt. Col. – the leader of the Bolivarian revolution – visited Libya, where he observed the 40th anniversary in power of another colonel, Muammar Qaddafi. Then – Algeria. Then – he went to Iran. Then – popped into Turkmenistan, which, it seems, turned out to have been a surprise for president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow [We are using the spelling the Turkmens themselves use as they switch from Cyrillic to Latin script, instead of “Berdymukhamedov”, which is actually a transcription from Russian–Ed.].

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As straight as a bullet shoots out of a gun, right away Hugo Chávez said to the Turkmens: “Hello. Have you already joined the ‘gas OPEC’?“. Having heard in response that Turkmenistan has not yet joined, Chávez smiled broadly and said: “Then join! We’re inviting you into this organization!

On the eve of a visit to Russia, lobbying for a gas OPEC will unconditionally score points for colonel Chávez with his friend, lieutenant-colonel Putin.

It looks like Chávez’s September visits to Russia are becomingsomething of a tradition. Last year, it was specifically in Septemberthat he came to Moscow. In July of the year 2007, Chávez acquiredcontracts for the delivery of Russian weapons and various other military goods.Then, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky gave the guest a bottle of vodka with adepiction of the head liberal-democrat of the RF, while formerVladivostok mayor Cherepkov presented him with a painting of a bullfighter which looked a lot like Chávez, engaged in one-on-one combat with a bulladorned with an American flag.

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It’s fun here with you“, – said Chávez.As vice-speaker of the Duma Lyubov Sliska expressed it, “he has suchenergy, there are several nuclear reactors in him“. And speaking ofreactors… It is being said that in the couloirs, the parties alsodiscussed about Venezuela’s nuclear program, which they intend toimplement with the help of Russian comrades. Like in Iran, for example.

When the Bolivarian leaders visited Russia for the first time back in May of 2001,then-president of the RF Vladimir Putin underscored: “Cooperation withVenezuela is a foundation-laying element of the mutual relations ofRussia with Latin America“. Since that time, Chávez just keeps comingback and coming back to Russia: twice in the years of 2001, in 2004, in 2006, in2007, in 2008 …. The friendship and the hugs are getting bigger andbigger.

It is understandable that for a Russian, for any man-in-the-street, it isprofoundly incomprehensible why Russia needs to be friends with farawayVenezuela. (In the same way, by the way, that it is incomprehensiblewhy it was necessary to quarrel with the nearest and long-timeneighbours – Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic states…) The secret of thisfriendship is known by two, as a minimum: Putin and Chávez. They areantipodes only on the surface: one is big and noisy, jovial and loud,open and aggressive. The second – small and quiet, malicious andvindictive, sarcastic and closed. But inside, both equally hate the United States and what the whole world calls democracy.

They both understand perfectly well just what “resource nationalism” is(see Ariel Cohen’s article on the subject). And they both also lovemilitary toys and games: to fly around in little airplanes, to cruisearound on little submarines, to look macho – one with an AKM [avtomatKalashnikova modernizirovanny, the 1959 updated version of one ofRussia’s most popular exports, the AK-47 assault rifle–Trans.], theother with a fishing rod…

Chávez needs weapons. Putin – a multi-polar world, in order to bully the eternal likely adversary – the USA.

In the year 2006, Chávez entered into a contract in the size of threebillion doll. with the Russian arms supplier «Rosoboronexport», whichincluded the delivery of 100,000 Kalashnikov AK-103 submachine guns, 24Su-30 multi-purpose fighters and 53 military helicopters. Towards theyear 2010 in Venezuela will likewise appear its own plant for themanufacture of Kalashnikov submachine guns. On top of that, Caracas isinterested in Russian anti-aircraft systems and diesel submarines…. Andthe “gas cartel” – this is a diversionary maneuver. This is a way ofexerting pressure on weak and timid minds, as well as attempts toimpress people. For example, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.